ARABIAN BUSINESS WEEKLY UPDATE MAY 8, 2005

The tragic case of a 21-year-old mother in Yemen has shocked the world. ANYONE who has studied the sad case of Amina Al Abdulatif, a 21-year-old Yemeni woman awaiting the executioner's bullet, is — like me — certain to have felt physically sick. As we report this week, Amina was accused of murdering her husband five years ago, and convicted with the flimsiest of evidence. Her execution was delayed at the last minute, after the discovery that she was pregnant (after being raped by a prison guard).

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  May 8, 2005

Yemen’s stuck in the dark ages|~||~||~| The tragic case of a 21-year-old mother in Yemen has shocked the world. ANYONE who has studied the sad case of Amina Al Abdulatif, a 21-year-old Yemeni woman awaiting the executioner's bullet, is — like me — certain to have felt physically sick. As we report this week, Amina was accused of murdering her husband five years ago, and convicted with the flimsiest of evidence. Her execution was delayed at the last minute, after the discovery that she was pregnant (after being raped by a prison guard). Last week, following her son's second birthday, Yemeni courts decided it was time to shoot her. Only a mass of protests from Western governments has spared her life, for at least a few more days. Yemen's president Ali Abdullah Saleh says he is “moved" by her case and that it may be reopened. More likely, he is moved by the fact that the IMF has approved a US$2.3 billion economic rescue package for Yemen including foreign debt relief and a modernisation programme. Under Saleh's leadership, Yemen has been ravaged economically, with 40% of the 19.5 million population living in poverty, and 37% of the workforce now unemployed. Also under Saleh, human rights abuses have become the norm, with many journalists now being targeted. Ironically, for all her suffering, Amani Al Abdulatif has become an unwitting heroine. Her case has forced president Saleh to think twice before unleashing more terror on his people. The IMF and all Western governments who have helped push for reforms in Yemen must also now think twice — until Al Abdulatif's case is reopened, and a commitment to stop human rights abuses proven, all economic co-operation with Yemen must be suspended. Whatever it takes, the world must force Yemen to enter the civilised world. ||**||Go for an IPO|~||~||~|Two weeks ago we revealed in this magazine that Emirates Airline was considering an IPO to raise cash. The story has been the talk of the Arab media, and — probably sooner than hoped — Emirates Airline will have to make a decision. On the face of it, with US$1.7 billion in the bank and record profits, there is no immediate need for new cash. But by putting its shares on the market, Emirates will open itself up to public scrutiny and accountability. It will force its rivals to either put up or shut up with their claims that the company receives unfair government subsidies and cheap fuel. It will bring an end to accusations that the state-owned airline could not survive in a competitive and open market. I have great faith in chairman Sheikh Ahmed's ability to deliver. But for his and the airline's credibility, he must seek an IPO sooner rather than later. ||**||Let’s celebrate tourism|~||~||~|There is little to cheer about whenever you watch the news. Last week’s bomb attack in Egypt suggested that terror against tourists may be back in fashion. Thankfully, tourists are continuing to flock to this region, and rising above the threats. The latest Arabian Travel Market exhibition in Dubai showed a 31% growth in exhibitor space, with 1800 exhibitors from 63 countries on display. The Middle East is now the fourth most visited region on earth, with 35 million visitors in 2004, a figure that is expected to double over the next 15 years. As these figures show, the region has a lot to offer big-spending tourists. Better airline services, a growing infrastructure and excellent leisure and hotel facilities have all contributed. We should all be proud. ||**||

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